Drew Haines is a young Canadian expat living in Ecuador. She writes the Galapagos for Kids series. Learn about the Galapagos from a kids perspective.
There are Giants in the Galapagos!
What came to your mind when you read the title? Dragons? Well unless you are thinking of marine iguanas, dragons don’t live in Galapagos … but maybe you would find one in a castle :). You probably didn’t think of turtles. But the fact is that the Galapagos Tortoises are giants.
They can grow up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) long! I think their scientific name is funny: Geochelone elephantopus. The second word reminds me of an elephant. Maybe they call it that because of the elephant-like toenails and the funny floppy neck?
3 Cool Facts About The Giant Galapagos Tortoise!
- Giant Tortoises used to live in every continent (except Antarctica)! Before we went to Galapagos, I thought that Galapagos tortoises were all the same. But it turns out that almost every island in the Galapagos has its own species! There used to be 15 species of these tortoises, but now there are only 11. Some have gone extinct since humans first arrived on the islands.
- The temperature affects whether the eggs come out boys or girls. When it is hot, more boys are born. So during an El Niño current, there are lots and lots of baby boys!
- When they go back in their shells, they make a really neat sound. Do you want to sound like a tortoise? Here’s how: Take a medium size glass, and put your top lip on top of it and the rest of your mouth inside (don’t push the glass up against your cheeks and chin) and blow as hard as you can for as long as you can. You will sound like a tortoise. Happy blowing! Do you know why they make that sound? They make that sound because as they pull their head in, all the air whooshes out as their lungs compress.
Did you know … about Galapagos Tortoises?
- Did you know that some tortoises (like Lonesome Gorge) are saddleback? And that the word “Galapagos” means saddleback? So when you are in Galapagos, you can pretend to be standing on a saddleback tortoise!
- Did you know that saddleback shells help the tortoise reach higher plants to get their food?
- Or did you know that the dome shaped shell helps those tortoises to graze on grass? When we were touring the Charles Darwin Foundation our guide told us that if the scales on their shell are touched, it doesn’t hurt them. But if the white lines between the scales are touched it does hurt them; it might be like a nerve. But don’t touch the tortoises, it’s not aloud.
Warning: Just because they are called saddle-back, doesn’t mean you can ride them – so don’t. At the Charles Darwin Foundation, you used to be able to go in the enclosures but you can’t now. That’s because people were riding the tortoises and it hurt them.